No extradition request for Assange, says Ecuador

People hold up images of Julian Assange that read in Spanish: ‘Ecuadorian’ as they counter-protest demands to remove his Ecuadorean nationality, in Quito. (AP Photo)
Updated 07 November 2018
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No extradition request for Assange, says Ecuador

  • The 47-year-old Australian has been holed up at Ecuador's embassy since 2012
  • Ecuador has shown increasing signs in recent months that it is preparing to terminate his six-year stay

QUITO: Ecuador said Wednesday it has received no extradition request for Julian Assange, which his lawyers have long cited as the reason the WikiLeaks founder has refused to leave its London embassy.
“We have told Mr. Assange: ‘Up to now, as far as we know, there is no extradition request from any country,’” Foreign Minister Jose Valencia told state-owned Radio Public.
The 47-year-old Australian has been holed up at Ecuador’s embassy since 2012, but Ecuador has shown increasing signs in recent months that it is preparing to terminate his six-year stay.
Valencia said the cost of hosting Assange so far had come to around six million dollars.
Assange fears being extradited to the United States to face charges over the WikiLeaks website’s release of troves of sensitive US government files.
He found refuge in the embassy in London after a British judge ruled he should be extradited to face allegations of sexual assault in Sweden.
That case has since been dropped, but Britain still wants him to face justice over breaching his bail conditions following his arrest on the sexual assault allegations.
His lawyer Carlos Poveda said last month Assange was prepared to surrender to British police if he receives assurances he will not be extradited.
“What England asks of him is to appear before the British courts to answer for having broken the conditions of his provisional release,” the foreign minister said.
“We do not see the British changing their point of view, they continue to insist that he appear before the courts and that they will not give him safe passage to another country,” said Valencia.
Ecuador said it had been informed by Britain that the penalty for violating parole conditions would not be more than six months.
Assange is currently suing Ecuador on grounds that his rights were violated by its decision to restrict his Internet access. An Ecuadoran court threw out the lawsuit last week, but Assange is appealing.
Quito confirmed blocking Assange’s Internet and mobile phone access in March after accusing him of breaking “a written commitment” not to interfere in Ecuador’s foreign policies.
A protocol governing Assange’s stay at the embassy — revealed by Ecuadoran Internet site Codigo Vidrio and never denied by Quito — warns that further breaches will lead to “termination of asylum.”


UN: Nearly 71 million now displaced by war, violence at home

Updated 50 min 22 sec ago
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UN: Nearly 71 million now displaced by war, violence at home

  • The figures are bound to add fuel to a debate at the intersection of international law, human rights and domestic politics
  • UNHCR said 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of last year, up from about 68.5 million in 2017

GENEVA: A record 71 million people have been displaced worldwide from war, persecution and other violence, the UN refugee agency said Wednesday, an increase of more than 2 million from last year and an overall total that would amount to the world’s 20th most populous country.
The annual “Global Trends” report released by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees counts the number of the world’s refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people at the end of 2018, in some cases following decades of living away from home.
The figures, coming on the eve of World Refugee Day on Thursday, are bound to add fuel to a debate at the intersection of international law, human rights and domestic politics, especially the movement in some countries, including the US, against immigrants and refugees.
Launching the report, the high commissioner, Filippo Grandi, had a message for US President Donald Trump and other world leaders, calling it “damaging” to depict migrants and refugees as threats to jobs and security in host countries. Often, they are fleeing insecurity and danger themselves, he said.
The report also puts a statistical skeleton onto often-poignant individual stories of people struggling to survive by crossing rivers, deserts, seas, fences and other barriers, natural and man-made, to escape government oppression, gang killings, sexual abuse, militia murders and other such violence at home.
UNHCR said 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of last year, up from about 68.5 million in 2017 — and nearly a 65 percent increase from a decade ago. Among them, nearly three in five people — or more than 41 million people — have been displaced within their home countries.
“The global trends, once again unfortunately, go in what I would say is the wrong direction,” Grandi told reporters in Geneva. “There are new conflicts, new situations, producing refugees, adding themselves to the old ones. The old ones never get resolved.”
The phenomenon is both growing in size and duration. Some four-fifths of the “displacement situations” have lasted more than five years. After eight years of war in Syria, for instance, its people continue to make up the largest population of forcibly displaced people, at some 13 million.
Amid runaway inflation and political turmoil at home, Venezuelans for the first time accounted for the largest number of new asylum-seekers in 2018, with more than 340,000 — or more than one in five worldwide last year. Asylum-seekers receive international protection as they await acceptance or rejection of their requests for refugee status.
UNHCR said that its figures are “conservative” and that Venezuela masks a potentially longer-term trend.
Some 4 million people are known to have left the South American country in recent years. Many of those have traveled freely to Peru, Colombia and Brazil, but only about one-eighth have sought formal international protection, and the outflow continues, suggesting the strains on the welcoming countries could worsen.
Grandi predicted a continued “exodus” from Venezuela and appealed for donors to provide more development assistance to the region.
“Otherwise these countries will not bear the pressure anymore and then they have to resort to measures that will damage refugees,” he said. “We are in a very dangerous situation.”
The United States, meanwhile, remains the “largest supporter of refugees” in the world, Grandi said in an interview. The US is the biggest single donor to UNHCR. He also credited local communities and advocacy groups in the United States for helping refugees and asylum-seekers in the country.
But the refugee agency chief noted long-term administrative shortcomings that have given the United States the world’s biggest backlog of asylum claims, at nearly 719,000. More than a quarter-million claims were added last year.
He also decried recent rhetoric that has been hostile to migrants and refugees.
“In America, just like in Europe actually and in other parts of the world, what we are witnessing is an identification of refugees — but not just refugees, migrants as well — with people that come take away jobs that threaten our security, our values,” Grandi said. “And I want to say to the US administration — to the president — but also to the leaders around the world: This is damaging.”
He said many people leaving Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador through Mexico have faced violence by gangs and suffered from “the inability of these governments to protect their own citizens.”
The UNHCR report noted that by far, the most refugees are taken in in the developing world, not wealthy countries.
The figures marked the seventh consecutive year in which the numbers of forcibly displaced rose.
“Yet another year, another dreadful record has been beaten,” said Jon Cerezo of British charity Oxfam. “Behind these figures, people like you and me are making dangerous trips that they never wanted to make, because of threats to their safety and most basic rights.”